Shi Lin Guang Ji: The Earliest Record of Xiangqi still extant
The current of Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) that we play nowadays was formed no later that the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279AD). The earliest record of actual games of Xiangqi could be found in Shi Lin Guang Ji (《事林广记》shì lín guǎng jì). There has been several translations of the encyclopedia. The Webmaster used the translation of Encyclopedia of Everything in the past, while translations like Vast Records of Varied Matters could be found on the Web. Until there is a consensus to the English translation, the Webmaster will continue to use Shi Lin Guang Ji (the Hanyu Pinyin) or Encyclopedia of Everything in this website.
Chen Yuanjing (陈元靓 chén yuán liàng/jìng) compiled the encyclopedia.
Note: 靓 can be read as either liàng or jìng but it should be read as the latter.
Chen Yuanjing's encyclopedia was a record of the daily matters of people in the Southern Song Dynasty. The encyclopedia itself was published towards the end of the Southern Song and Xiangqi historian Professor Zhang Ru-an has given the date that the Encyclopedia was finished to be 1266AD (p159). The original records have been lost but the Chen‘s encyclopedia was later preserved in reprints. Some of Chen's work was also copied and reprinted in Japan.
The records of Xiangqi that were found in the encyclopedia would serve as proof that the current form of Xiangqi existed no later that the Southern Song Dynasty.
There were earlier diagrams, like the diagram of a Xiangqi board in poetess Li Qingzhao's Hitting the Horse Mantra 《打马赋》. Hitting the horse was another game that was very popular in the Southern Song but has since become extinct.
In Shi Lin Guang Ji, there were only three records of Xiangqi. One was a short puzzle, and two were short games and one short endgame. The boards have been presented below. The three boards shown here are the earliest records of Xiangqi to date. The author has turned the records into interactive board games as shown below.
1.张, 如安. 中国象棋史. 北京 : 团结出版社, 1998. 7-80130-170-6.